30 June 2018

Interesting Point

Ian Welsh makes a very good point, that free trade does not create efficiency.

In fact, when we look at what happens with international outsourcing, it increases transportation costs, it requires more people, and emits more greenhouse gasses:

For the past few weeks I’ve been reading a raft of literature by lawyers, economists and bureaucrats involved with the World Trade Organization (WTO) and other free traders. It’s been a fascinating journey into an alternate world, one in which frictionless trade and money flows; and unified regulations and laws are considered to be a good thing.

The reasoning behind this virtually unquestioned acceptance is as follows: if there are no barriers to trade, whether financial or regulatory, goods and services will be created (or done) wherever they cost the least. If they are done in the lowest-cost place, they are being done in the most efficient way, and that means more is created and consumers also pay less.

It is thus a good thing, virtually always, to reduce barriers to trade and services. If it can be done for cheaper somewhere it should be. Some people may lose, but overall more (or the same) is created for less, and this is good.

This is basically an article of faith in everything I’ve been reading from people who make their living around the WTO.

But you may have caught the error in the thinking. It assumes the lowest cost is equivalent to the most efficient.

But it isn’t. When manufacturing moved from the US to China, it cost less to do in China, yes, but it produced more carbon (climate change); it took more people to produce the same amount of goods, and it generally used more materials, as well.

In other words, in every way except the monetary cost it was less efficient.
Free trade is about labor market arbitrage, not any real efficiencies.

29 June 2018

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!

No commercial bank failures this year, but we do have another credit union closing: 
  1. Louisville Metro Police Officers Credit Union, Louisville, KY
Here is the Full NCUA list.

Not sure why no banks this year.

There is Creepy, Creepier, and Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook just applied for a patent to use secret television signals to turn on your phone's microphone:
You may have seen the ads that Facebook has been running on TV in a full-court press to apologize for abusing users privacy. They’re embarrassing. And, it turns out, they may be a sign of things to come. Based on a recently published patent application, Facebook could one day use ads on television to further violate your privacy once you’ve forgotten about all those other times.

First spotted by Metro, the patent is titled “broadcast content view analysis based on ambient audio recording.” (PDF) It describes a system in which an “ambient audio fingerprint or signature” that’s inaudible to the human ear could be embedded in broadcast content like a TV ad. When a hypothetical user is watching this ad, the audio fingerprint could trigger their smartphone or another device to turn on its microphone, begin recording audio and transmit data about it to Facebook.


Everything in the patent is written in legalese and is a bit vague about what happens to the audio data. One example scenario imagines that various ambient audio would be eliminated and the content playing on the broadcast would be identified. Data would be collected about the user’s proximity to the audio. Then, the identifying information, time, and identity of the Facebook user would be sent to the social media company for further processing.

In addition to all the data users voluntarily give up, and the incidental data it collects through techniques like browser fingerprinting, Facebook would use this audio information to figure out which ads are most effective. For example, if a user walked away from the TV or changed the channel as soon as the ad began to play, it might consider the ad ineffective or on a subject the user doesn’t find interesting. If the user stays where they are and the audio is loud and clear, Facebook could compare that seeming effective ad with your other data to make better suggestions for its advertising clients.
Facebook's level of evil is beginning to resemble that of a Bond villain.

Not a Surprise

What a surprise.

America's international butt-boy, the UK, was hip deep in the US torture program:
British intelligence agencies were involved in the torture and kidnap of terrorism suspects after 9/11, according to two reports by the parliamentary intelligence and security committee.

The reports published on Thursday amount to one of the most damning indictments of UK intelligence, revealing links to torture and rendition were much more widespread than previously reported.

While there was no evidence of officers directly carrying out physical mistreatment of detainees, the reports say the overseas agency MI6 and the domestic service MI5 were involved in hundreds of torture cases and scores of rendition cases.

The committee says the agencies were aware “at an early point” of the mistreatment of detainees by the US and others. There were two cases in which UK personnel were “party to mistreatment administered by others”. One has been investigated by the Metropolitan police but the other is still to be fully investigated. 


The report dealing with the treatment of detainees details a litany of cases of concern, saying: “We have found 13 incidents where UK personnel witnessed at first hand a detainee being mistreated by others, 25 where UK personnel were told by detainees that they had been mistreated by others and 128 incidents recorded where agency officers were told by foreign liaison services about instances of mistreatment. In some cases, these were correctly investigated but this was not consistent.”
Guardian Today: the headlines, the analysis, the debate - sent direct to you
Read more

It said in 232 cases UK personnel continued to supply questions or intelligence to other services despite knowledge or suspicion of mistreatment, as well as “198 cases where UK personnel received intelligence from liaison services which had been obtained from detainees who knew they had been mistreated – or with no indication as to how the detainee had been treated but where we consider they should have suspected mistreatment”.
It would be nice if Jack Straw ends up in the dock over this.

It would be nicer if Tony Blair did.

28 June 2018

Time for Thoughts and Prayers, Again, and Again, and Again, and Again

A lone gunman blasted his way into the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis with a shotgun Thursday, killing five people dead and injuring two others, authorities said.

Journalists dove under their desks and pleaded for help on social media. One reporter described the scene a “war zone.” A photographer said he jumped over a dead colleague and fled for his life.

The victims were identified as Rob Hiaasen, 59, a former feature writer for The Baltimore Sun who joined the Capital Gazette in 2010 as assistant editor and columnist; Wendi Winters, 65, a community correspondent who headed special publications; Gerald Fischman, 61, the editorial page editor; John McNamara, 56, a staff writer who covered high school, college and professional sports for decades; and Rebecca Smith, 34, a sales assistant hired in November.

Police took a suspect into custody soon after the shootings. He was identified as Jarrod W. Ramos, a 38-year-old Laurel man with a longstanding grudge against the paper.

“This was a targeted attack on the Capital Gazette,” said Anne Arundel County Deputy Police Chief William Krampf. “This person was prepared today to come in. He was prepared to shoot people.”
Ramos has been in a dispute with the paper since 2011, so this is not related to the incitements of inverted traffic cone Donald Trump, Elvis impersonator wannabee Milo Yiannopoulos, or the rest of their ilk.

It was just an asshole with a gun.

Maybe the problem is the guns.

He's a Bloody Scooby Doo Villain:

I am referring, of course, to Andrew Cuomo, whose response to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's victory in the primary is, "And I would've gotten away with it if it weren't for those meddling kids."

OK, he didn't ACTUALLY say that, but tell me that this does not sound very similar:
In his own remarks to reporters, Mr. Cuomo said Ms. Ocasio-Cortez “ran a very good campaign” that connected with people in her district, particularly “the fear and the anger that is in the minority community.”
Of course, this really isn't true, Ocasio-Cortez actually performed better in the non-Hispanic precincts, but Cuomo wants to minimize her legitimacy, and to his mind, that involves making her victory the result of minority votes, which, come to think of it, is pretty f%$#ing racist.

27 June 2018

There Needs to be Mass Firings and Mass Prosecutions at ICE

It has been revealed that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has been hacking its own risk assessment software so that it can detain everyone it catches.

This organization is fatally flawed, and while its function is essential, the culture is beyond fixing.

Fire all of them and pull their security clearances, and prosecute those who have abused their power:
One of the more fascinating and horrible details in Reuters' thoroughly fascinating and horrible long-form report on Trump's cruel border policies is this nugget: ICE hacked the risk-assessment tool it used to decide whom to imprison so that it recommended that everyone should be detained.

Prior to ICE’s changes to its risk assessment software that result in mandatory detention for all apprehended immigrants, the only immigrants that would automatically be detained were those with serious criminal histories. According to the most recent data released by ICE cited in the Reuters report, the most serious crime committed by nearly half of arrested immigrants during the first 100 days of the Trump administration were traffic violations, which didn’t include drunk driving.
I'm beginning to think that ICE sees sadism as an essential requirement for new hires.

About F%$#ing Time

The Knesset has passed a new law which closes Israel’s doors to husbands who make their wives an agunah, refusing to give her a bill of divorce. The Conference of European Rabbis was behind the initiative, which has now been passed into law, barring recalcitrant husbands from seeking refuge in Israel.

If a beis din in The Diaspora has labels a man a recalcitrant husband, not only will be barred from entering the country, but he will be detained by authorities at the airport as a deterrence towards compelling him to release his wife from an unwanted marriage.
There is a peculiarity in Jewish law that a divorce has to be executed by the man, by giving a get, and if there is a civil divorce, the man is free to remarry and his children would not be a mamzer, which creates major complications for the child, while the wife's children would be.*

As such, in many divorces, the man, either as a tactic, or just because they are an asshole, will refuse to give a get.

This problem is considered serious enough that Maimonides issued a ruling that it was acceptable to beat the husband to convince him to give the wife a get, so the move by the Israeli parliament is the least that they could have done.

It's actually more complicated

F%$# F%$# F%$# F%$# F%$# F%$# F%$# (%$# Mine)

That's the headline at Splinter News about the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy:
Because absolutely nothing gold can stay, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced today that he is retiring, handing President Donald Trump his second vacancy to fill on the nation’s highest court and giving him a perfect opportunity to drag the court even further to the right.

In a letter submitted to Trump, Kennedy said his retirement would be effective July 31.


While Kennedy was appointed to the court by Ronald Reagan, he’s been a deciding swing vote during his tenure, providing the key vote on issues like same sex marriage, campaign finance, and abortion.

His departure is also certain to decisively shift the ideological leanings of the court for decades to come—the consequences of which we’ve already started to see since Trump appointed Neil Gorsuch. In this session alone, the conservative court has dealt a crippling blow to public sector unions and upheld Trump’s Muslim ban.
Anthony Kennedy is a partisan political hack.

We learned this in 2000 in Bush v. Gore, and this was reinforced over the past few weeks with his concurrences in redistricting, the Muslim ban, and union rights.

Of course, the fact that Trump is likely to try to find someone who is even worse to replace him is not reassuring.

I expect to see the court overturn Roe v. Wade in the next 18 months or so, and Eisenstadt v. Baird not that long afterward.

After that, should expect to see abortion made illegal, as well as significant restrictions on contraception, in a number of states.

Margaret Atwater may prove to be rather more prophetic than she would like.

26 June 2018

It's Primary Night, and Holy F%$#ing Sh%$!!!!!!!!

Primary night in Maryland, New York, Utah, Colorado, and Oklahoma.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (age 28) defeated incumbent Joseph Crowley by over 15 points in NY-14.

This is a big deal.  Crowly was the number 4 Democrat in the House, and considered a favorite to (eventually) succeed Pelosi as Speaker, and he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to hold onto his seat.

Ocasio-Cortez, by contrast is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America and a Bernie supporter.

My only question is whether or not the machine in the district will try to push Republican Anthony Pappas, on the theory that if he wins, it makes it easier for a machine pol to take the district back, though given that the district went for Hillary by about 60 points, that would be a very tough

Good news in Maryland too, where former NAACP chairman Ben Jealous won the Democratic gubernatorial primary by more than 10% after a Sanders endorsement, though the general is by no means a sure thing as Republican incumbent Larry "Governor Ratf%$#" Hogan is rather paradoxically popular.

More locally, John "Johnny O" Olszewski, the unabashedly progressive candidate is leading Jim Brochin the race by about 250 votes, with the 3rd place candidate, back about 1,000 votes in the race for County Executive.

Considering that there are something like 80,000 provisional ballots statewide due to a DMV motor-voter f%$#-up, we could be waiting for a few weeks on this one.

I'm Kind of Dubious of This

Blah, blah, blah!
The German research lab Bauhaus Luftfahrt is proposing replacing the high pressure turbine and combustor with a piston engine.

It sounds like a step beyond the turbo-compound engines that were the final stage of piston engines before jets took over.

The reason that I am dubious is for the same reason that turbines beat out pistons for at that time: Maintenance costs.

Even a first generation turboprop would deliver 10 times the time on the wing, which outweighed the much higher fuel economy of a piston engine, at least at higher power levels.

Still, it is an interesting technology:
The Composite Cycle Engine (CCE) concept incorporates piston engines into the core of an aircraft turbo engine. The piston engines increase thermal efficiency by using non-stationary isochoric-isobaric combustion, which enables higher peak pressures and temperatures within the core engine. In the current design, the piston engine is connected with the high-pressure spool and powers the axial-radial high-pressure compressor. The low-pressure system is similar to a conventional geared turbofan (GTF) architecture. This way, the outstanding power-to-weight ratio of low-pressure turbines can be fully utilised and an ultra-high bypass ratio is realised. Assuming an entry into service in 2050, fuel burn improvements up to 50 per cent relative to year 2000 turbofan technology (11 per cent relative to year 2050 advanced GTF technology, respectively) can be reached. 
In fact, pistons have better fuel economy to this day, though the fuel is harder to find, and you really don't find aviation piston engines at the higher power levels of turbines.

I could see this being applied in some areas, expendable drones and the like, and possibly private aircraft, where the additional range might be more significant than the engine time on the wing.

Partisan Hacks

The Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision ruled that Trumps Muslim ban was just fine.

I thought that Bush v Gore was the worst Supreme Court ruling of my life.  I was misinformed:
The Supreme Court upheld President Trump’s ban on travel from several predominantly Muslim countries, delivering to the president on Tuesday a political victory and an endorsement of his power to control immigration at a time of political upheaval about the treatment of migrants at the Mexican border.

In a 5-to-4 vote, the court’s conservatives said that the president’s power to secure the country’s borders, delegated by Congress over decades of immigration lawmaking, was not undermined by Mr. Trump’s history of incendiary statements about the dangers he said Muslims pose to the United States.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said that Mr. Trump had ample statutory authority to make national security judgments in the realm of immigration. And the chief justice rejected a constitutional challenge to Mr. Trump’s third executive order on the matter, issued in September as a proclamation.

The court’s liberals denounced the decision. In a passionate and searing dissent from the bench, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the decision was no better than Korematsu v. United States, the 1944 decision that endorsed the detention of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

She praised the court for officially overturning Korematsu in its decision on Tuesday. But by upholding the travel ban, Justice Sotomayor said, the court “merely replaces one gravely wrong decision with another.”
Seriously.  This isn't a difference in ideology, this is lack of basic humanity.

This is a Whole New World of Evil

Maria and her 12-year-old daughter surrendered to Customs and Border Protection agents immediately after crossing the Rio Grande on a raft near McAllen, Texas, in the first week of June. It was the final step of their journey from Guatemala, where both of them had been subjected to years of physical abuse by Maria’s husband. They wanted asylum in the United States.

Because Maria had committed a misdemeanor offense by crossing the border, she and her daughter were sent to a processing center where a CBP officer allegedly gave Maria a stark choice. (Maria is a pseudonym to protect her identity.) If she gave up her asylum claim and returned to Guatemala, she and her daughter would remain together. If she applied for asylum, on the other hand, Maria would be thrown in jail for a year and her daughter would be put up for adoption. Maria would never see her daughter again.

Maria recounted this story last week to Edgar Saldivar, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas.

“She was very distraught,” Saldivar told The Daily Beast on Tuesday. “Her mind was a bit scattered, but after spending quite a bit of time talking with her, she regained her composure and talked to me.”

Her story of being threatened with the forced adoption of her daughter shocked Saldivar.

“We’ve heard of the history of CBP officers using lies and misinformation to pressure people into signing voluntary departures,” he said. “But in this specific context, where they’re threatening to take a child away and adopting them out to an American family, that was something I had not heard before.”
I am sure that this CBP agent was ordered to get people to leave voluntarily, and I'm sure that he was just following orders.

The term I use for this sort of person is, "Good German."

Hanna Arendt would call this, "The Banality of Evil."

I Feel Old

I was talking to my daughter after picking her up from school.

She was talking about making jokes abut death, and I suggested that she should make an event out of this.

She has organized concerts before, so I thought that this might be in her wheelhouse.

I suggested that she call it ………

Wait for it ………

Wait for it ………

Death Comedy Jam!!!

I got a blank look from her.

I told the joke to my son.

I got a blank look from him.

I feel old.

25 June 2018

Pass the Popcorn

European leaders are frantically holding meetings to try to save Merkel's political career, which threatens to implode over the immigration issue.

If I were in the meetings, I would toss her an anvil, but I've never been a fan.

Also, there is the whole "Symmetry" thing:  She has been instrumental in applying EU pressure to bring down a number of EU governments, particularly in Italy and Greece, and now she is attempting to rely on the same institutions to preserve her government and her career.

Her problems are largely an artifact of her own political decisions, and bailing her out should not be a priority for the EU.

This is the Definitive Take on L'Affaire Huckabee-Sanders

Amid all the conservative butt-hurt over Sarah Huckabee-Sanders being denied service at a restaurant, this is to my mind a proper take:
Do you think that being asked to leave a restaurant, or having your meal interrupted, or being called by the public is bad? My fascism-enabling friends, this is only the beginning.

One thing that people who wield great power often fail to viscerally understand is what it feels like to have power wielded against you. This imbalance is the source of many of the most monstrous decisions that get made by powerful people and institutions. The people who start the wars do not have bombs dropped on their houses. The people who pass the laws that incarcerate others never have to face the full force of the prison system themselves. The people who design the economic system that inflicts poverty on millions are themselves rich. This sort of insulation from the real world consequences of political and economic decisions makes it very easy for powerful people to approve of things happening to the rest of us that they would never, ever tolerate themselves. No health insurance CEO would watch his child die due to their inability to afford quality health care. No chickenhawk Congressman will be commanding a tank battle in Iran. No opportunistic race-baiting politician will be shunned because of their skin color. Zealots condemn gay people—except for their own gay children. The weed-smoking of young immigrants should get them deported—but our own weed-smoking was a youthful indiscretion. Environmentalist celebrities fly on carbon-spouting private jets. Banks make ostentatious charity donations while raking in billions from investments in defense contractors and gun manufacturers and oil companies. This is human nature. It is very, very easy to do things that hurt others as long as those same things benefit, rather than hurt, you. Self-justification is a specialty of mankind.
I agree.  More of this.

The calls for civility are being made by people who want to share a cocktail with the movers and shakers in politics at one of Sally Quinn's parties.

Truly, America's Finest News Source

Charles Krauthammer Has Ashes Spread Over Prosperous, Liberated Iraq

Normally, I try not to speak ill of the recently dead, but I'm down with quoting The Onion.

Supreme Court Rules 5-4: N*****s Shouldn't Vote

This morning the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Texas in a dispute alleging that the state’s lawmakers had drawn redistricting maps to discriminate against some of the state’s black and Hispanic residents. By a vote of 5-4, the justices threw out almost all of a ruling by a three-judge federal district court that would have invalidated the maps, agreeing with the lower court only that one state legislative district was a racial gerrymander. Today’s ruling means that elections this year will likely go forward using the existing maps.

The decision came in the two cases known as Abbott v. Perez, which date back to 2011, when Texas’ Republican-controlled legislature began to redistrict after the 2010 census. The legislature’s federal congressional and state legislative maps never took effect, because a three-judge district court (which normally hears redistricting cases) barred the state from using the maps and created its own plans instead. But the U.S. Supreme Court threw out the court-created maps in 2012, telling the lower court to use the state legislature’s maps as a “starting point” for new maps. The district court did so, and in 2013 the state legislature adopted the maps for permanent use.
Then they kicked the North Carolina redistricting case to the curb:
The Supreme Court passed up an opportunity on Monday to take another look at whether the Constitution bars extreme partisan gerrymandering, returning a case from North Carolina to a trial court there for a further examination of whether the challengers had suffered the sort of direct injury that would give them standing to sue.

The move followed two decisions last week that sidestepped the main issues in partisan gerrymandering cases from Wisconsin and Maryland.

The new case was an appeal from a decision in January by a three-judge panel of a Federal District Court in North Carolina. The ruling found that Republican legislators there had violated the Constitution by drawing the districts to hurt the electoral chances of Democratic candidates.

The decision was the first from a federal court to strike down a congressional map as a partisan gerrymander.
 I'm with Sonya Sotomayor on this one:
It means that, after years of litigation and undeniable proof of intentional discrimination, minority voters in Texas—despite constituting a majority of the population within the State—will continue to be underrepresented in the political process. Those voters must return to the polls in 2018 and 2020 with the knowledge that their ability to exercise meaningfully their right to vote has been burdened by the manipulation of district lines specifically designed to target their communities and minimize their political will.
Let me translate Sotomayor into something more pithy:  The 5 justices who voted to ignore the racism in Texas are a bunch of corrupt ratf%$3s.

Tweet of the Day

This reminds me of a certain work of literature.

Douglas Adams was right.


Captain Blackadder Really Did Fight in World War I (War Is Boring)  Capt. Robert John Blackadder of the Royal Garrison Artillery, Pvt. James Baldrick of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, Capt. John Clive Darling of the 20th Hussars.  Most were KIA/
Trump's Family Separation Scandal Has Revealed Every Species of Hypocrite (Rolling Stone) Taibbi unloads a well deserved can of whup-ass.
The Jurassic World Porn Parody That Asks: What If Dinosaurs Were Porn Stars? (Motherboard) Just kill me now.
Police Realizing That SESTA/FOSTA Made Their Jobs Harder; Sex Traffickers Realizing It's Made Their Job Easier (Techdirt) It has led to an explosion in the activities of pimps.
Gallery Owner Arrested After Dropping Sculpture Of Giant Drug Spoon At Purdue Pharma (Hartford Courant) If you are in the area, you might want to check out his gallery.
Washington, D.C.: the Psychopath Capital of America (POLITICO) The results of thiw study should surprise no one.

Remember that dance off scene in Guardians of the Galaxy? Here is the blooper reel:

24 June 2018

Tweet of the Day

I am in total agreement, but supporting the Oxford comma has always been something that I strongly endorse.

A Twist in the Russia Investigation

It appears that both the prosecution and defense have filed motions to exclude Manafort's time as Trump's campaign chairman from the trial:
The former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and special counsel Robert Mueller have finally found something they can agree on.

Mueller‘s prosecutors and Manafort‘s defense team filed separate motions with a federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, on Friday asking to block lawyers at an upcoming trial for the longtime lobbyist and political consultant from mentioning his stint at the helm of the Trump campaign in 2016.

The requests came in court filings spurred by Manafort‘s looming trial next month on charges of tax evasion, bank fraud and failing to report overseas bank accounts.

Mueller’s team went first, asking U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis to prevent Manafort‘s defense from arguing to jurors that he was targeted for prosecution because of his role in Donald Trump’s presidential bid.


Manafort‘s defense followed up a short time later with an even broader motion asking to bar any discussion at all of the defendant‘s role in the Trump campaign, as well as all mention of Mueller‘s mandate to investigate potential collaboration between Trump‘s team and Russia. “Evidence or argument relating to Mr. Manafort‘s work for then-candidate Trump’s campaign in 2016 or the Special Counsel’s investigation of the campaign’s alleged collusion with the Russian government is wholly irrelevant to whether Mr. Manafort’s personal income tax returns were false, whether he willfully failed to file reports of foreign accounts, and whether he conspired to commit, or committed, bank fraud,“ Manafort‘s attorneys wrote.

The defense lawyers’ motion also evinced concern that their client could become the victim of anti-Trump bias among potential jurors.
Basically, the case comes down to Manafort being a corrupt son of a bitch, though one wonders how he is really different from any of the other international lobbyists in Washington, DC.

The other twist is that The Nation magazine just published an article debunking the whole "Russiagate" thing.

I find it interesting because The Nation is the last place where I would expect to find such an article.

I'm still guessing that it will be the coverup, and not the underlying crime, that will end up having real repercussions.

The "Internet of Things" Enables Domestic Abusers

This is really not a surprise.

Any technology has a potential of for misuse, and internet enabled home devices have among the worst security of any tech out there, but still the stories abusers using connected devices are pretty disturbing:
The people who called into the help hotlines and domestic violence shelters said they felt as if they were going crazy.

One woman had turned on her air-conditioner, but said it then switched off without her touching it. Another said the code numbers of the digital lock at her front door changed every day and she could not figure out why. Still another told an abuse help line that she kept hearing the doorbell ring, but no one was there.

Their stories are part of a new pattern of behavior in domestic abuse cases tied to the rise of smart home technology. Internet-connected locks, speakers, thermostats, lights and cameras that have been marketed as the newest conveniences are now also being used as a means for harassment, monitoring, revenge and control.

In more than 30 interviews with The New York Times, domestic abuse victims, their lawyers, shelter workers and emergency responders described how the technology was becoming an alarming new tool. Abusers — using apps on their smartphones, which are connected to the internet-enabled devices — would remotely control everyday objects in the home, sometimes to watch and listen, other times to scare or show power. Even after a partner had left the home, the devices often stayed and continued to be used to intimidate and confuse.


Graciela Rodriguez, who runs a 30-bed emergency shelter at the Center for Domestic Peace in San Rafael, Calif., said some people had recently come in with tales of “the crazy-making things” like thermostats suddenly kicking up to 100 degrees or smart speakers turning on blasting music.

“They feel like they’re losing control of their home,” she said. “After they spend a few days here, they realize they were being abused.”


One of the women, a doctor in Silicon Valley, said her husband, an engineer, “controls the thermostat. He controls the lights. He controls the music.” She said, “Abusive relationships are about power and control, and he uses technology.”
This is really kind of horrifying.

23 June 2018

Tweet of the Day

Solidarity, Brothers and Sisters.

Support Your Fighting Men

The Trump administration feared it would be a “public relations nightmare”: a major federal study that concluded contaminated groundwater across the country, especially near military bases, was more toxic than the government realized. Political aides to President Donald Trump and Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt pressured the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry against releasing the results.

“The public, media, and Congressional reaction to these numbers is going to be huge,” an unidentified White House aide wrote, according to Politico. “The impact to EPA and [the Defense Department] is going to be extremely painful. We cannot seem to get ATSDR to realize the potential public relations nightmare this is going to be.” The study was not released.

That is, until Wednesday. Amid a media firestorm about the administration’s immigration policy, the ATSDR—a division of the Department of Health and Human Services—quietly published its 852-page review of perfluoroalkyls, or PFAS, which are “used in everything from carpets and frying pan coatings to military firefighting foams,” according to ProPublica. “All told, the report offers the most comprehensive gathering of information on the effects of these chemicals today, and suggests they’re far more dangerous than previously thought.”

These chemical compounds pose health risks to millions of Americans. They’re in roughly 1 percent of the nation’s public water supply, according to the EPA; in roughly 1,500 drinking water systems across the country, according to the Environmental Working Group. People who drink from these systems, even if their exposure to PFAS is low, now have a potentially increased risk of cancer; of disruptions in hormones and the immune system; and of complications with fetal development during pregnancy.

But military personnel and veterans are particularly at risk, because PFAS compounds are in firefighting foams, which have been used in training exercises at military bases across America since the 1970s. Those foams have leached into the groundwater at the military facilities, and often the drinking water supply. Nearly three million Americans get their drinking water from Department of Defense systems.

The DOD has reported widespread contamination at its bases and posts, as well as their surrounding areas. In a March report to the House Armed Services Committee, the department provided a list of 126 military facilities where nearby water supplies contained PFAS levels above the EPA’s standard, and 36 bases with drinking water contamination on site. “In all, 25 Army bases; 50 Air Force bases, 49 Navy or Marine Corps bases and two Defense Logistics Agency sites have tested at higher than acceptable levels for the compounds in either their drinking water or groundwater sources,” the Military Times reported.
This is amazingly f%$#ed up.

We Are Completely Screwed

In addition to increasing ice melt, it not turns out that anthropogenic climate change is resulting in major uprising of bedrock in Antarctica, which will further accelerate sea level rise.

Ice melts, the weight on the underlying ground is reduced, and the land springs up.

I rather imagine that will see something similar in Greenland

Rinse, lather, repeat:
The earth is rising in one part of Antarctica at one of the fastest rates ever recorded, as ice rapidly disappears and weight is lifted off the bedrock, a new international study has found.

The findings, reported in the journal Science, have surprising and positive implications for the survival of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS), which scientists had previously thought could be doomed because of the effects of climate change.

The unexpectedly fast rate of the rising earth may markedly increase the stability of the ice sheet against catastrophic collapse due to ice loss, scientists say.

Moreover, the rapid rise of the earth in this area also affects gravity measurements, which implies that up to 10 percent more ice has disappeared in this part of Antarctica than previously assumed.

Researchers led by scientists at The Ohio State University used a series of six GPS stations (part of the POLENET-ANET array) attached to bedrock around the Amundsen Sea Embayment to measure its rise in response to thinning ice.

The "uplift rate" was measured at up to 41 millimeters (1.6 inches) a year, said Terry Wilson, one of the leaders of the study and a professor emeritus of earth sciences at Ohio State.

In contrast, places like Iceland and Alaska, which have what are considered rapid uplift rates, generally are measured rising 20 to 30 millimeters a year.

"The rate of uplift we found is unusual and very surprising. It's a game changer," Wilson said.

And it is only going to get faster. The researchers estimate that in 100 years, uplift rates at the GPS sites will be 2.5 to 3.5 times more rapid than currently observed.
We need to take action now, because otherwise, beach front property in Florida will be in Alabama.

22 June 2018

A Good Day at the Supreme Court

They ruled that cops do need a warrant to track you via your cell phone:
Over 40 years ago, the Supreme Court outlined what has come to be known as the “third-party doctrine” – the idea that the Fourth Amendment does not protect records or information that someone voluntarily shares with someone or something else. Today the Supreme Court ruled that, despite this doctrine, police will generally need to get a warrant to obtain cell-site location information, a record of the cell towers (or other sites) with which a cellphone connected. In an opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts, the five-justice majority pointed to “seismic shifts in digital technology,” which have allowed wireless carriers to collect “deeply revealing” information about cellphone owners that should be protected by the Constitution. Roberts characterized the ruling as a narrow one; indeed, the majority at least left open the prospect that police might not need a warrant to get information about where someone was on the day that a crime was committed. But the decision still drew sharp criticism from the dissenting justices, who complained that it is likely to imperil, in the words of Justice Samuel Alito, “many legitimate and valuable investigative practices on which law enforcement has rightfully come to rely.”
Justice Alito, just because law enforcement likes being sloppy and lazy does not justify continual and meticulous invasion of privacy.

The name for a society that allows police to act that way is a police state.

21 June 2018

More Defense Contractor Butthurt

I think that there are any number of good reasons, most of them having to do with Erdoğan increasingly erratic and autocratic rule, not to have Turkey deeply involved in the F-35 program.

That being said, the current defense contractor driven hysteria over Turkey buying the S-400 SAM system from Russia is not one of those reasons:
The most sophisticated fighter jet in the world, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, will play a smaller role in the future of European security than originally conceived. On Monday, the Senate amended its version of the 2019 defense authorization act to block the sale of the fifth-generation fighter jet to Turkey. The reason: the NATO ally’s purchase of the Russian S-400, a radar and missile battery with a lethal range of 250 km. In routine operation, the sensor- and transmitter-packed jet exchanges electronic data with friendly anti-air systems and sensors, and if Turkey were to do this, data collected by the Russian-built weapon might find its way back to Moscow.

The House version of the bill also expresses concerns about the S-400 and Turkey and requires a report 60 days after the bill’s enactment to assess Turkey’s purchase of the system and possible consequences to U.S. aircraft.

Turkey inked the S-400 deal last year, over strenuous objections from the U.S. and other NATO-member governments concerned about an ally using Russian air defense systems. “A NATO-interoperable missile defense system remains the best option to defend Turkey from the full range of threats in the region,” Pentagon spokesperson Johnny Michael told CNBC last fall.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim called Monday’s decision “lamentable.” It’s also very inconvenient for Turkey’s political elite, coming just days before Turkish elections.

The U.S. military has gotten up close and personal with the S-400 over Syria, where the Russian military has deployed to aid the Assad regime. Its deadly presence reshaped how the U.S.-led coalition flies air ops, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigan told reporters in September. “‘We are consistently monitoring them to see if something changes their intent because we have to manage that and respond quickly…We look at it every day. It’s an everyday discussion to make sure our force can manage that risk.”
The S-400 is arguably the best SAM system currently deployed, and as noted above, it scares the crap out of the US military.

Its detection range, which almost certainly exceeds 500 km, means that installations in Kaliningrad will be getting all the data that the Russians could ever want on the F-35.

It would cover all of Poland and the Baltics, going as far west as Berlin and Copenhagen, and that doesn't include coverage from installations in Belarus.

This is about defense contractors not getting their vigorish from a NATO ally, nothing more.

Closing the Barn Door after the Psychopath Has Left the Barn

So, after leveraging many direct and indirect subsidies, and his complete lack of ethics, Jeff Bezos now owns most of the world.

One of the biggest subsidies was the fact that Amazon did not have to collect state sales taxes, based on a a 1992 Supreme Court ruling.

The Supreme Court has now reversed this ruling, meaning that online vendors will have to collect state sales taxes:
Justice Anthony Kennedy had essentially invited a test case to overrule Quill Corp. v. North Dakota and its physical-nexus rule for the states being able to require out-of-state retailers to collect sales tax. So it was not a huge surprise that Kennedy had the opinion for the court today in South Dakota v. Wayfair.

Except, of course, that the oral argument in the case in April had left many observers wondering whether the court could get to a majority willing to overrule the 1992 Quill decision and its 1967 predecessor, National Bellas Hess Inc. v. Illinois Department of Revenue.

“In effect, Quill has come to serve as a judicially created tax shelter for businesses that decide to limit their physical presence and still sell their goods and services to a state’s consumers—something that has become easier and more prevalent as technology has advanced,” Kennedy wrote. “This Court should not prevent states from collecting lawful taxes through a physical presence rule that can be satisfied only if there is an employee or a building in the state.”

In an unusual voting lineup, the court did reach such a majority, and Kennedy announced that the physical-presence rule was unsound and incorrect, and that Quill and Bellas Hess were overruled.
It would have been nice if this had happened a decade ago, before various internet retailers became behemouths.

This is the Most Toxic Twitter Discussion Thread Ever

This is a fairly unsurprising bit of information, the older populations are cohorts are whiter, and the tail end of the baby-boom is over 50, so it's not a surprise.

But the comments thread is the most unbelievable racist sh%$-show I have ever seen on Twitter.

Also, you see a bunch of animated GIFs of people eating popcorn.

Click through if you dare.

20 June 2018

Canada to Become Major Importer of Fig Newtons

Because they have just legalized recreational marijuana use nationwide.

You might also consider investing in ice cream sammiches:
Canada is to become the second country in the world to fully legalise marijuana, after the senate approved legislation paving the way for recreational cannabis to be legally bought and sold within the next two or three months.

“We’ve just witnessed a very historic vote that ends 90 years of prohibition,” senator Tony Dean told reporters on Tuesday after the vote to pass the Cannabis Act.

“It ends 90 years of needless criminalisation, it ends a prohibition model that inhibited and discouraged public health and community health in favour of just-say-no approaches that simply failed young people miserably.”

The federal government has said it would give provinces and territories – which are responsible for deciding how recreational cannabis will be distributed and sold – eight to 12 weeks after the legislation is passed to get ready for sales, but the exact date that sales begin will be set by the federal government.
Oh, Canada!

So Not a Surprise

Language in a confidential severance agreement Tesla Inc. is using as part of the biggest job cut in its history is likely to deter dismissed employees from going public with worker safety concerns, according to employment-law experts.

A proposed severance agreement Tesla presented to one of the more than 3,000 workers dismissed last week required acknowledgment that the employee “had the opportunity to raise any safety concerns, safety complaints, or whistleblower activities against the company, and that if any safety concerns, safety complaints, or whistleblower activities were raised during your employment, they were addressed to your satisfaction.”

The document obtained and reviewed by Bloomberg News also barred the former worker from sharing “business-related” information; required that the ex-employee assist Tesla’s defense against claims; released any claims made against Tesla; and dictated that any disputes under the agreement will be handled in individual arbitration.

“I do think the agreement will chill valid employee complaints,” said Brishen Rogers, a law professor at Temple University. “A reasonable worker would just keep their mouth shut, rather than risk losing their severance pay.”


The document, which would provide the employee about two months of severance pay, includes a clause stating that it doesn’t “in any way limit or prohibit” the employee from cooperating with or filing a charge with a government agency. But the rest of the document makes it less likely that fired workers would actually speak up about issues like safety, or be taken seriously if they did, labor law experts say.

“The implication is, if you went to OSHA and you said, ‘Here’s something new I want to tell you about a safety concern at Tesla,’ and then OSHA asks the company to respond to that allegation, the company is going to say, ‘That employee told us that they raised everything,’” said Sharon Block, the executive director of Harvard University’s Labor and Worklife Program.

The language requiring workers to assist Tesla in legal disputes is also potentially problematic, said David Lopez, the incoming co-dean of Rutgers law school.
Elon Musk likes to represent himself as a messianic figure who will change the world.

I want no part of his vision.

Trump Caves

Returning to an Obama administration policy
Trump blinked, and issued an executive order changing the asylum policy to something marginally less heinous.

Ironically enough, it appears to be very similar to Obama's 2014 policy:
President Trump caved to enormous political pressure on Wednesday and signed an executive order meant to end the separation of families at the border by detaining parents and children together for an indefinite period.

“We’re going to have strong — very strong — borders, but we are going to keep the families together,” Mr. Trump said as he signed the order in the Oval Office. “I didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated.”
But ending the practice of separating families still faces legal and practical obstacles. A federal judge could refuse to give the Trump administration the authority it wants to hold families in custody for more than 20 days, which is the current limit because of a 1997 court order.
The president’s four-page order says that officials will continue to criminally prosecute everyone who crosses the border illegally, but will seek to find or build facilities that can hold families — parents and children together — instead of separating them while their legal cases are considered by the courts.

Justice Department officials said the legal authority to end family separation relies on a request they will make in the coming days to Judge Dolly M. Gee of the Federal District Court in Los Angeles, the daughter of immigrants from China who was appointed by President Barack Obama. She oversees a 1997 consent decree, known as the Flores settlement, which prohibits immigration authorities from keeping children in detention, even if they are with their parents, for more than 20 days.

The 1997 case imposes legal constraints on the proper treatment of children in government custody, which stopped Mr. Obama after his administration began detaining families together during a similar flood of illegal immigration several years ago.

“It’s on Judge Gee,” said Gene Hamilton, the counselor to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “Are we going to be able to detain alien families together or are we not?”
As for those of you who are wondering why I'm bringing up the contemptible policies of the Obama administration, it is because Trump's even more despicable policies did not spring fully grown out of his head:  They were a logical progression of Obama's eager embrace of his role as, "Deporter-in-Chief."

The past is prologue, here, and it is not by accident.

Fundamentally, the issue of illegal immigration is driven to a large demand for low cost labor, and if we were to aggressively target employers, and increase the perceived risk and perceived cost to potential employers, our immigration enforcement system would be both more humane and more effective.

Tweet of the Day

This is in response to a report that Trump and his Evil Minions are considering merging the departments of Education and Labor.

This is beautiful.

19 June 2018

Interesting Insight into the Origins of Trump's Child Snatching Policy

Ian Welsh has come across how Barack Obama's truly horrific immigration policies led directly to Trump's even more contemptible child snatching:
So, you’ve all heard about this by now.

It is, obviously, a terrible crime. And yeah, evil.

It is an extension of Obama’s policy of holding families (without splitting them up, but still in terrible conditions). If you want to understand the link, read this Twitter thread.
It is rather telling that (read the whole tweet storm) it is clear from the exchange that putting families in detention was intended as a deterrent by the Obama administration, because they thought that no one but a few immigration lawyers would care.

Sounds familiar.

Trump's immigration policies are not an abberation, they are a natural progression from prior administrations.

Stupid, but Consider the Alternative

Donald Trump wants a US Space Force be established as a, "Separate but Equal," 6th branch of the military.

My first though was, "Racism much?"

My second thought was, "This is really stupid."

My third thought was, "Yes, but it's still probably going to do more, for less money, than the United States Air Force."

Personally, I'd like to fold the USAF back under the army and go to 4 (really 3½) services.

Happy Juneteenth Everyone

Seriously?  You don't know what that is?

Read the damn Wiki.

It should be a much bigger deal.


I do not understand why people are losing their sh%$ over this video:

18 June 2018

I Blame the Editors

It's Called Google
SE Cupp published an OP/ED in the New York Times because ……… I don't know why really ……… I think that it's either a rather bizarre form of performance art from the Times editors, or if it's because they have some sort of affirmative action program for stupid conservatives.

What is interesting about her OP/Ed (no link, for reasons which will become obvious) is that it it prominently features one, "Amy Maurer, a 43-year-old well-educated suburban mom in Kenosha, Wis.," who were aggressively targeted by the Clinton campaign.

One small thing though, Ms. Maurer is not just a well educated Soccer mom, she is the corresponding secretary for the executive committee of the Republican Party of Kenosha County.

Hilary Clinton's campaign may have had mind boggling levels of incompetence, but even they weren't wasting resources going after Republican Party cadres.

Gee, I wonder why Amy was spewing Republican talking points when she was talking to the Heritage Foundation's Salena Zito, who Cupp sites copiously in article.

The New York Times really needs to hire a fact checker for their editorial page.

H/t Atrios.

SCOTUS Punts on Gerrymanders

The Supreme Court has ruled in incredibly narrow terms not to make a ruling on partisan gerrymanders:
Last summer, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called Gill v. Whitford, a partisan-gerrymandering challenge to the state legislative maps drawn by Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled legislature, one of the most important cases of the term. The court heard oral argument in the case in October; two months later, it agreed to take on Benisek v. Lamone, a partisan-gerrymandering challenge to a single federal congressional district drawn by Democratic officials in Maryland. With those two cases on their docket, there were high hopes that the justices would finally weigh in definitively on challenges to the practice of purposely drawing maps to favor one party at the expense of another – either by holding that courts should steer clear of such claims or by laying out standards for courts to use in evaluating them. But the justices did neither. Instead, they sent the Wisconsin case back to the lower court for a new look at whether the challengers in the case have the legal right to bring their challenge at all; they also declined, while saying nothing about the merits, to disturb a ruling by a federal court in Maryland that left the congressional map in place for the 2018 election.


But today’s ruling in the Wisconsin case focused on whether the challengers have a legal right to bring their lawsuit – known as “standing.” The justices unanimously agreed that the challengers had not adequately demonstrated that they do have standing, and the court (although not unanimously) sent the case back to the lower court to allow the challengers to make that showing.

In an opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts, the court explained that the Wisconsin challengers’ claims rest on the argument that their votes have been diluted because the Republican-controlled legislature has either “cracked” Democratic voters (dividing them up among different districts so they don’t form a majority in any) or “packed” them (concentrating them in a few districts in which they form an overwhelming majority). But the harm from vote dilution, the court reasoned, stems from how a particular district has been drawn, which in turn causes a voter’s vote “—having been packed or cracked—to carry less weight than it would carry in another, hypothetical district.” The remedy for that harm, the court continued, does not require the state to redraw the entire map, as the challengers have requested; instead, the state would only need to redraw enough of the districts to fix the cracking or packing in a specific district.
It's a meticulously narrow ruling which has the effect of supporting the status quo.

I tend to view this with a jaundiced eye.

Finally, a Google Update that I Approve Of

Back in January 2017, Google and Uber teamed up to put a cool feature in Google Maps: You could search for, book, and pay for an Uber all directly from Google Maps. You didn't even need the Uber app installed. Now, 18 months later, the feature is dead. Google posted a new support page (first spotted by Android Police) that flatly states, "You can no longer book Uber rides directly in Google Maps."

The feature would have you search for a location in Google Maps and ask for directions like normal, but instead of choosing walking, driving, biking, or mass transit directions, a tab for ride-sharing would allow you to book a ride directly. The ride-sharing tab still exists, but instead of booking an Uber, it just gives you an estimate and offers to kick you out to the Uber app.
My guess?  Other ride sharing apps were looking for a similar space, and Uber attempted to steal autonomous driving tech from Google, and Uber has simply become toxic on many levels.

Of the three, my guess is that the latter was the deciding factor.

17 June 2018

It's Father's Day, and My Little Girl Turns 21

I remember literally holding her in the palm of my hand at her naming a week after she was born.

And now she can order alcohol.


16 June 2018

Not a Surprise

As someone who founded a non-profit 501(c)3 charity, I tried to make sure that I never personally benefited from what it did.

It wasn't that hard, because I never drew a salary, and the total budget while I ran involved in managing the organization was less than $100K annually while I was there.

I did, however, manage to f%$# up lots of other things,

However, it appears that this was a bridge too far for Donald Trump and his Evil Minions:
The New York State attorney general’s office filed a scathingly worded lawsuit on Thursday taking aim at the Donald J. Trump Foundation, accusing the charity and the Trump family of sweeping violations of campaign finance laws, self-dealing and illegal coordination with the presidential campaign.

The lawsuit, which seeks to dissolve the foundation and bar President Trump and three of his children from serving on nonprofit organizations, was an extraordinary rebuke of a sitting president. The attorney general also sent referral letters to the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission for possible further action, adding to Mr. Trump’s extensive legal challenges.

The lawsuit, filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, culminated a nearly two-year investigation of Mr. Trump’s charity, which became a subject of scrutiny during and after the 2016 presidential campaign. While such foundations are supposed to be devoted to charitable activities, the petition asserts that Mr. Trump’s was often improperly used to settle legal claims against his various businesses, even spending $10,000 on a portrait of Mr. Trump that was hung at one of his golf clubs.

The foundation was also used to curry political favor, the lawsuit asserts. During the 2016 race, the foundation became a virtual arm of Mr. Trump’s campaign, email traffic showed, with his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, directing its expenditures, even though such foundations are explicitly prohibited from political activities.

The attorney general’s office is seeking the Trump Foundation to pay $2.8 million in restitution, the amount raised for the foundation at a 2016 Iowa political fund-raiser. At the time, Mr. Trump skipped a Republican debate and set up his own event to raise money for veterans, though he used the event to skewer his opponents and celebrate his own accomplishments.
Seriously, this sh%$ is not tough.

When I applied for not-for-profit in Massachusetts, they provided the case study, where Students Against Driving Drunk (SADD) and its founder were bitch-slapped by authorities for making significant golden parachute payments.

Determining what is, and is not, illegal "Self Dealing" ain't rocket science, folks, but the Trump clan are too stupid, and too venal, to get that.

Tweet of the Day

This is a fairly stark repudiation of the idea that Bernie Sanders supports are little more than a bunch of white boys.

H/t naked capitalism.

Your Military Industrial Complex in a Nutshell

As a part of supporting the Afghan military, the Pentagon is upgrading Kabul's helicopters.

There are a few small problems though: In addition to the Afgan military not being able to maintain its new Black Hawk helicopters, the Russian Helos that it is replacing outperform the Black Hawk by almost every metric:

A report from a top U.S. military watchdog has finally acknowledged that the UH-60A+ Black Hawks that the United States is supplying to the Afghan Air Force are less capable and harder to maintain than the Russian-made Mi-17 Hip helicopters they have now. The review raises concerns that this could limit Afghanistan’s ability to conduct operations across the country unless steps are taking to mitigate the loss of capability, something we at The War Zone have long warned could easily be the case.


“The transition [from Mi-17s to UH-60s] presents several challenges that have yet to be fully addressed,” the report says in a section dedicated to the issue. “Black Hawks do not have the lift capacity of Mi-17s.”

“They are unable to accommodate some of the larger cargo items the Mi-17s can carry, and in general, it takes almost two Black Hawks to carry the load of a single Mi-17,” the review continues. “Furthermore, unlike Mi-17s, Black Hawks cannot fly at high elevations and, as such, cannot operate in remote regions of Afghanistan where Mi-17s operate.”


“The Mi-17 is ‘much more conducive to the education level available in the general Afghan population than the UH-60As’ when it comes to maintenance,” the 9th Air Expeditionary Task Force-Afghanistan (AETF-A), the U.S. Air Force’s top command for operations in Afghanistan, which also oversees advising the Afghan Air Force, said, according to the Pentagon Inspector General’s review. “The expectation is that the AAF will be almost entirely reliant on contractors for Black Hawk maintenance in the near- to mid-term.”
That reliance on contractors is a feature not a bug:  This is more of the deferred compensation for general officers program that appears to be the raison d'être of the Pentagon these days.

Whoever made this decision will secure a well remunerated post military retirement sinecure with Sikorsky, one of its suppliers, or the contractors that the Afghans (actually us) are paying very well for support services.

15 June 2018

What Took So Long?

2 years after the Theranos was revealed to be a fraud, prosecutors have finally gotten around to charging Theranos executives with fraud.

Is Elizabeth Holmes had been a black woman kiting $500 in checks, she would have already been tried, convicted, and would be serving a decade long sentence:
Elizabeth Holmes, the disgraced founder of Theranos, the lab testing company that promised to revolutionize health care, and its former president, Ramesh Balwani, were indicted on Friday on charges of defrauding investors out of hundreds of millions of dollars as well as deceiving hundreds of patients and doctors.

The criminal charges were the culmination of a rarity in Silicon Valley — federal prosecution of a technology start-up. This one boasted a board stacked with prominent political figures and investors, and a startling valuation of $9 billion just a few years ago. In the fabled universe of overnight billionaires and unicorns, companies with billion-dollar valuations, Ms. Holmes had catapulted herself and her company into the buzz-filled world of “disrupters” by pledging to upend the health industry and give consumers control over their own care.

Both Ms. Holmes and Mr. Balwani pleaded not guilty to charges of wire fraud. Lawyers for Ms. Holmes could not be reached for comment, but a lawyer for Mr. Balwani said in a statement that his client was “innocent and looks forward to clearing his name at trial.”

The indictment was filed by the United States attorney’s office in San Francisco and came about three months after the Securities and Exchange Commission settled civil fraud charges against Ms. Holmes.

On Friday, Theranos also announced that Ms. Holmes, who founded Theranos in 2003 as a 19-year-old Stanford University dropout, stepped down as chief executive. She will be replaced by David Taylor, the company’s general counsel, according to a statement from the company, which did not respond to requests for additional comment.
The small picture here is a multi-billion dollar grift

The larger picture is that this is generally how business is done in Silicon Valley, only with software, where you can always claim that the next patch will take care of the problem.

Much of the whole "Unicorn" culture of Silicon Valley is indistinguishable from fraud.

Alexander Was Not Greek, He Conquered Greece

Their alleged causus belli was that Macedonia's name implied a claim to a Greek province.

In reality, the Greeks want to imagine that the foreigner who conquered Greece 2500 years ago was actually Greek, and their feelings were hurt.

Those delicate snowflakes:
The leaders of Macedonia and Greece reached an agreement on Tuesday to end a 27-year feud surrounding the Balkan country's name.

The prime ministers Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev have agreed to refer to Macedonia as the Republic of Northern Macedonia, or Severna Makedonija in the Macedonian language. The name change is an effort to prevent territorial claims to Greece's northern region of Macedonia.

Greece's Macedonia includes the major port city of Thessaloniki, and tensions have existed between Greece and its neighbor for over two decades following the breakup of Yugoslavia.

The capital of Skopje adopted the name of Macedonia in 1991, following its independence, and Greece vetoed the country's bid to join NATO and the European Union over the name dispute.

Doing Good Does Not Excuse Doing it Badly

Case in point, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, who has decided to go Walmart on its employees' attempt to unionize:
Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains is asking Donald Trump’s National Labor Relations Board for help in busting its staff union. Last December staff at the clinic voted to join the Service Employees International Union (SEIU); management is challenging that decision.

By using the rightwing Trump administration against its own workers, a Planned Parenthood chapter is effectively pitting two powerful beacons of progressive politics against one another, at a time when we all need them to be working together. That’s bad enough. But it’s especially troubling for a reproductive rights organization to take an anti-union stance, given that unions are central to feminist progress.
Unionized workers suffer less sex discrimination and sexual harassment than other workers, and when they do experience these things, unions offer grievance procedures to address them, as well as solidarity and guidance. By contrast, the neoliberal workplace – and the gig economy – offer women the opportunity to lean in and suck it up.
The goal at this point should not be just to have Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains to reverse course:  Their senior management needs to go now.

This behavior, I call it the Ralph Nader school of persnnel management for non-profits, is an intolerable and an unaffordable hypocrisy.

Pass the Popcorn

Paul Manafort has been remanded to custody for violating his bail by attempted witness tampering:

A federal judge ordered Paul Manafort to jail Friday over charges he tampered with witnesses while out on bail — a major blow for President Trump’s former campaign chairman as he awaits trial on federal conspiracy and money-laundering charges next month.

“You have abused the trust placed in you six months ago,” U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson told Manafort. “The government motion will be granted, and the defendant will be detained.”

The judge said sending Manafort to a cell was “an extraordinarily difficult decision” but said his conduct — allegedly contacting witnesses in the case in an effort to get them to lie to investigators — left her little choice.

“This is not middle school. I can’t take away his cellphone,” she said. “If I tell him not to call 56 witnesses, will he call the 57th?” She said she should not have to draft a court order spelling out the entire criminal code for him to avoid violations.

“This hearing is not about politics. It is not about the conduct of the office of special counsel. It is about the defendant’s conduct,” Jackson said. “I’m concerned you seem to treat these proceedings as another marketing exercise.”

Manafort was led out of the courtroom by security officers. He turned and gave a last look and wave to his wife, seated in the well of the court. She nodded back to him.
As a spectator sport, I actually find this a lot more interesting than watching the World Cup, but I'm an American, so Soccer ……… meh.

14 June 2018

Headline of the Day

Centrists Are Very Concerned That Donald F%$#ing Trump Isn’t Hawkish Enough
Caitlin Johnstone
(%$# mine)

The conventional wisdom of foreign policy and war and peace is even scarier than the conventional wisdom on how to best regulate high finance.

If that does not scare the crap out of you, I want some of what you are smoking.

13 June 2018

Three Stopped Clock Moments in 1 Week

First, notwithstanding the ruling by a George W. Bush appointed judge approving the AT&T — Time Warner merger, Trump and his Evil Minions were correct in opposing that merger.

Judge Richard Leon noted the lack of immediate negative consequences to the consumer, the classic analysis developed by Robert Bork, but that analysis is legally, functional, and historically bankrupt. 

Even a cursory analysis of antitrust law reveals that Congress's original intent was driven by concerns about the barriers to entry for new competitors and the political power of monopolies than it was consumer welfare.

Second, Trump was right in the core of his dispute with the other G7 members in that he trade deals should not be an eternal and unchanging edifice upon which our world is based.

His proposal for sunset clauses in trade deals, so that countries can reevaluate policies as conditions change, is correct.

To quote Keynes, "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?”
He gets almost everything wrong. But last weekend Donald Trump got something right. To the horror of the other leaders of the rich world, he defended democracy against its detractors. Perhaps predictably, he has been universally condemned for it.

His crime was to insist that the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) should have a sunset clause. In other words, it should not remain valid indefinitely, but expire after five years, allowing its members either to renegotiate it or to walk away. To howls of execration from the world’s media, his insistence has torpedoed efforts to update the treaty.

In Rights of Man, published in 1791, Thomas Paine argued that: “Every age and generation must be as free to act for itself, in all cases, as the ages and generations which preceded it. The vanity and presumption of governing beyond the grave is the most ridiculous and insolent of all tyrannies.” This is widely accepted – in theory if not in practice – as a basic democratic principle.
Finally, of course, is his talks with the DPRK, which has shown more progress than 20 years of refusing to negotiate on an one on one and direct basis and sanctons.

Of course, this is Trump, and he, and his administration, could f%$# up a 2 car funeral, so the probability that this will eventually lead to concrete positive developments is a rather remote.